The Safe Bet (The Game Changers #3)

By: Shealy James

The Game Changer Series Book Three




Chapter One





August 1991



My parents swore it was the happiest place on earth. It even said so on the brochure. Walking hand-in-hand in the park, I felt it. We headed straight toward the most amazing castle I had ever seen. It was the only castle I had ever seen in person, but even the ones I saw in books weren’t as amazing as this one. Mickey was there, Minnie too. There were pirates and princesses and Dumbo! My mom held me tightly against her as we flew on Dumbo’s back. My dad screamed wildly on a roller coaster that really wasn’t scary. I was starting to believe the hype.

It was later in the day when Daddy took me on a ride without my mom. She said she was going to buy us some ice cream for when we finished the ride. I thought nothing could wipe the smile off my face. We were led by smiling workers onto a boat ride. Somehow we ended up all alone in the big boat. My dad sat behind me. “You can drive, Reagan. Just don’t hit anything.”

“I don’t know how to drive a boat, Daddy.” He was so silly.

He laughed happily in a way that dads only laugh for their daughters. “It’s a good thing the ride does it for us, then. All you have to do is sit back and relax.”

I didn’t want to relax. I bounced back and forth in my seat, trying to see everything. My dad was quiet as I pointed my favorite things out to him. By the end of the ride I was singing the repetitive song along with the high-pitched voices coming through the speakers.

We exited, and my dad took my hand in his to guide me to a bench. I didn’t know where my mom was, but he assured me she would be there soon.

“You heard that song, right?”

I began singing it again. He shushed me, then his smile turned serious. “It’s true, you know? It is a small world. Once someone enters your life, they never really leave it.”

“Okay, Daddy.” I went to start the song again, but he pressed a finger to my lips, quieting me once more.

“Reagan, I’m trying to tell you something important.”

I frowned and looked up at his eyes. I could see now that my fearless father was sad. He even looked scared, but that couldn’t be right. Dads weren’t afraid of anything.

“I knew someone a long time ago, Reagan. She was the love of my life.”

“No. Me and Mom are the loves of your life. You said so.”

“I do love you, but I was mistaken. Like the song says, it really is a small world, and I ran into Clara a few months ago. It was a sign, Reagan. You only cross paths with people from your past if they are really meant to be in your life. Clara was the one that got away until now. She was my high school sweetheart, my first love that I never got over. You’ll understand what I mean when you’re older. There are some loves from which you never recover.”

“What about Mom?”

“I don’t love your mom like that, and she knows it.”

“I don’t understand, Daddy.”

“We, your mom and me, decided it’s best if I don’t live with you two anymore.”

“Why?”

“I love Clara, so I’m going to live with her now. You need to be strong for your mom, Reagan.”

“But Daddy…”

“I’m sorry, Reagan.”

“But you love me!”

The look on my daddy’s face was like he was looking at a big hairy spider rather than his only daughter crying in the middle of Disneyland. “Now, don’t cry, Reagan. You’ll make a scene.”

“But you love me,” I whimpered softly this time.

“It’s a small world, Reagan. We’ll see each other again.”

My dad stood from the bench and moved to walk away. I broke down screaming. “No, Daddy!”

This time there was no mistaking the expression on his face. He was disgusted with me. He walked away just as I felt my mom grab me from behind and hold me against her body.

Then she yelled after him, “You told her here? Today of all days? We agreed you’d wait.”

He quickly turned, still walking away backwards. “I thought it’d be easier. I was wrong. Sorry.”

This time when he shrugged and turned away, I screamed until tears blinded me and my throat hurt. My mom pressed my face against her and lifted my ten-year-old body from the ground. I was too big to be carried, but sometimes a girl just needed her mom to hold her. The day my father left, I needed more than the comfort from my mother to make me feel better. Ice cream and Disneyland didn’t help either. It was truly the unhappiest place on earth.

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